Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce OpenRespect.org: a bid to deflect criticism of Ubuntu?

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Some years ago, soon after the SCO Group had kicked off its infamous lawsuit to try and squeeze money out of people on the grounds that Linux was violating copyright, Linus Torvalds was asked his opinion of SCO chief executive Darl McBride's claims.


Torvalds is the soul of brevity. His reply was all of two words: "He's lying."

In today's climate, when spinmeisters are trying to gain ascendancy in the FOSS world and are succeeding to a large extent, Torvalds' comments would not go down well. The man was clearly not showing respect - which, as Stephen Colbert would say, is today's word.

But the topic of respect is raised only when it suits people to do so. Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution has been under siege recently, for its decisions to adopt a new interface and also a new X server. Some of the criticism has been rather, shall we say, pointed and direct.

Now suddenly, Jono Bacon, the Ubuntu community manager - the spinmeister-in-chief - has come up with an initiative to try and create respect within the FOSS community. Why? Well, Bacon feels that all the aggressiveness in the community is not of much help in what the community is trying to do.

The timing is rather funny. There have been countless instances over the last few years when respect was the last thing being shown in FOSS circles. Yet Bacon was silent. He hasn't explained why he's all over respect right now.

Now when Canonical has its feet held to the fire, we have a new website called OpenRespect.org registered and volumes of spiel being generated by Bacon.

It seems a bit odd that Bacon, in his initial introduction to the initiative, cited the names of two other community leaders - Stefano Zacchiroli, leader of the Debian GNU/Linux project and Jared Smith, head of the Fedora GNU/Linux project - as people he had consulted. He then promptly issued some kind of manifesto without obtaining agreement from either of these people.

Both promptly made it clear that the initiative, in its present form, did not have their support. Another community leader, Aaron Seigo of the KDE Desktop project, wrote a lengthy analysis of the implications of the word respect, making it clear that he did support the initiative in its current form either.

As an aside, it seems ironic that the first person to comment on one of Bacon's posts was Jo Shields, who packages Mono for Debian. Shields, an employee of Oxford University, has no qualms about attacking viciously any developer who does not conform to his way of thinking. He has no qualms about using racist epithets either. Shields, incidentally, supports the respect initiative!

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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